Morrisons in Port Talbot was clean and tidy, despite the fact staff were busy restocking the store. Four items were unavailable, but our shopper only had to wait for a minute at the checkout and staff were "helpful and responsive".
Tesco in Bognor Regis had plastic bags on the floor and loose packaging in the aisles, due to restocking at the end of the day. Three items the olives, pain au chocolat and battered cod were out of stock, but despite the disappointment, our shopper noted the tidy appearance of the staff.
Too few checkouts were open at Sainsbury's in Cheam because the store was being restocked our shopper had to queue for seven minutes while 20 of the 34 checkouts stood unmanned. But although she was unable to buy five of the 33 items, our shopper was pleased that a member of staff took her to an item she could not find.
At Asda in Robroyston, a "pleasant and polite" checkout assistant packed our shopper's bags, but forgot to charge for the mushrooms. The PG Tips, pain au chocolat and Country Life butter were unavailable, but there was an impressive number of drinks promotions.
Winner: Caroylyn Bailey, branch manager, Waitrose, Rickmansworth
How have you prepared for Christmas? I'm new to this store, so in September I set up a Christmas working team with different levels of partners working in key areas. We brainstormed the whole of Christmas, from issues such as parking and opening hours through to what we sell, and we have met every month to plan. One member of staff even planned for the Delia effect by watching all the programmes and writing up the lines affected. So far, we are showing a huge uplift in sales.
Which products are selling well? Venison is going really well this year and we have seen a huge uplift in game generally. Our local competition doesn't stock it and as people are eating in more and having dinner parties, they are thinking about getting something a bit special. Mince pie ice cream has also done well and so has feuilles de brick pastry, which is on our recipe card for Christmas pudding cigars. Canapés sold incredibly well on offer last week and Champagne was my top-selling line, again on offer.
How do you motivate your staff? They are all partners who have a say in what we do, and it is about keeping them informed and engaged, so I run a number of groups. We've got a wastage group, a customer service one and it is about them understanding why we do things. We run a huddle twice a week, where we talk about sales and service and give an award to someone who has gone the extra mile.
Would you like to make any changes to your store? It is a two-minute walk into the town and we share a carpark with the train station, but we don't get a huge amount of commuter traffic because we don't have a café, which is something I would love. If we had a café they would come through to us, but instead there is a coffee shop in the town they go to. Hospitality is something the company is looking into, and it would give us the full package. It would be the cherry on the cake, because it is a big, light store with a window down one side looking over the train tracks and it would lend itself beautifully to a café.
What's your goal for next year? To build on our customer service and take it to legendary status.